WOMEN SHAPING HISTORY 2014
Dean Donne Kampel:
What has inspired your current career path?
My inspiration comes from an intense desire to succeed, as well as a need to be useful. In my first career as a hospital administrator, I learned some important lessons working in large, complex medical centers. I learned to listen and watch other administrators. However, after several years, the work itself was not personally gratifying and I knew I had not found my personal niche. I seemed to process a lot of paper, while the planning and decision making, for which I was highly trained, was being done by the medical staff and the insurance companies. I knew that I would have to keep looking for the career that would allow me to learn and teach leadership.
I was then fortunate enough to be offered an excellent position at the City University of New York and it turned out to be a very pivotal point in my career. Because I had always had budget responsibilities, I was hired as a budget officer within CUNY’s central budget office. After several years of working with college presidents, Albany budget people, and legislators, I decided to try working alongside a colleague in student affairs, which became another learning experience as well as an important step up. I was now able to work directly with students, faculty, staff, and college presidents. I was presented with the entire spectrum of leadership. I listened, watched, and learned. Higher education became my laboratory, where I began developing my own perspective on leading, leadership, and most importantly, women and leadership.
What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced? How did you overcome them?
I believe the biggest challenge I faced was trying to be a career woman during the 1970s and 80s. The women’s movement was well under way and we younger women were supposedly making corporate headway. However, it looked and felt very different in the trenches, where most of us young women were working. Corporate and not-for-profit New York and the rest of the United States were, for the most part, worlds led by and for men. Promotions, then as now, are given sparingly and are not necessarily based on merit. Women who showed professional ambition and a desire to get ahead were made to feel uncomfortably out of place.
I did develop strategies to survive and eventually prevail. Initially, during my early career years, I would leave one organization for another, which offered a higher position and a more competitive salary. I did this several times before changing fields.
My strategy changed as I matured, found mentors, and had more to lose by leaving. I looked for individuals who would not resent my ambition and who would let me learn, as well as teach. I used to find it ironic that most of the people who helped me on my way up were men. However, my research has shown that because women are almost always underrepresented in upper level positions, there exists no critical mass to serve as mentors.
What are some of the accomplishments you are most proud of?
I am proud of being a faculty dean and working with my learned colleagues at Touro College. This is an organization with an impressive mission and I am proud to be part of the team.
My first book was a major accomplishment. It is called, “Learning Leadership: Women Presidents of Colleges and Universities.” The book focuses on women leaders in higher education and how they attained college and university presidencies. I interviewed women college presidents who took the time to tell me their stories. They described their professional lives and their family lives, giving me a sense of what was important to them and how they negotiated the same bumpy highway to success on which I tread.
The book has led to speaking engagements that include one of my favorites: moderator of a public panel discussion focusing on women in academic leadership. The event was held at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and the speakers were four women presidents of well-known colleges and universities. The event was entitled, “The Changing Roles of Women in Academic Leadership,” and the areas of discussion were the challenges these women had faced and their perception of changing roles, expectations, opportunities, and obstacles for women in academic leadership. Another anticipated accomplishment is a new, follow-up book, which will focus on the other end of the academic pipeline: women faculty and their aspirations to become deans, provosts, and presidents. I hope to follow these women longitudinally to see how far they go in achieving their professional goals.
I am very proud to have formed the Women’s Leadership Council at Touro College. I started this organization in the summer of 2011 to bring together talented women faculty, students, and administrators from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Our goals include the support women at Touro College in their efforts to attain intellectual, educational, and professional goals as well as fostering the collaboration of leaders and engaged students, and others who aspire to leadership.
Who have been the most influential mentors in your life?
It has been my experience that a woman’s career choices can be greatly enhanced with the help of mentors. When I wrote my book, I discovered that, like me, most of the women college presidents had male mentors. My mentors encouraged me to move forward with my career, taking opportunities when they were presented. They also encouraged me to take chances. Mentors helped show me how to lead across an organization as well as how to mentor others.
Most of the women I interviewed for my book explained that their goals included mentoring other individuals because of what had been given to them. I hope to find in my follow-up book that women faculty will reap the benefits of having mentors strong enough to support and promote women.
What would you describe as a turning point in your life?
The most critical turning point for me, career wise, was switching career tracks. Higher education turned out to be my niche and led me to opportunities that I could not have imagined years ago.
What are your goals for the future?
I am very excited about beginning work on a new book, Women and Leadership, Volume 2. I still envision career moves that will enable me to use all of my talents to propel myself, the organization, and individuals with whom I work, to higher levels. I enjoy working with people as well as being an advocate for those who have not yet found their voices.
I hope in my career lifetime to see more women achieving higher positions at colleges and universities. I hope the academic pipeline becomes easier to navigate, the glass ceiling disappears and choices of leadership role models include women and men.#